The 10 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

The 10 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

James Taylor James Taylor
30. Oct 2020 ∼ 6 min. read

If you’re in Iceland between September and April, you might wonder if there’s one location in the country that offers a better chance at seeing the northern lights. The truth is, there’s no one location better than another. The lights appear everywhere during this time – even above Reykjavik. To get started, read our Guide to the Northern Lights and make sure to keep an eye on the forecast.

But there are some locations in Iceland that do make the northern lights that much more special. From jaw-dropping landscapes to bubbling hot pots, we’ve rounded up the best spots to see the northern lights in Iceland.

1.    Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

As one of the most beautiful locations in the country, the glacier lagoon in Iceland’s southeast is one of the best spots to see the northern lights in Iceland. During the winter, the lagoon fills with icebergs jostling for space, showing off colours of blue, white, and black. Visit the lagoon in the late evening for a chance to see ribbons of aurora swirling overhead, illuminating the entire scene in a soft, green light.

2.    Kirkjufell Mountain

You’ve probably already seen a photo of the northern lights dancing above Kirkjufell Mountain. This is one of the most photographed locations in Iceland, and for good reason. With a pair of picturesque waterfalls in front, lining up a photo here is becoming a bucket-list item for photographers. The cone-shaped mountain rises majestically on its peninsula, framed by nothing but the vast sky. If the lights are out, it feels like another world altogether.

3.    Hellulaug Hot Pot

Instead of shivering outside while you wait for the northern lights, jump in a bubbling hot pot instead. And if the lights do come out while you’re submerged in the steamy water, then congratulations because you’ve just had the quintessential Icelandic experience (bonus points if it’s also snowing). There are plenty of hot pots across the country, but one of our favourites is Hellulaug in the Westfjords. This place is quiet at the busiest of times, so in the winter it’s likely to be completely deserted. Getting there can be tricky though – make sure to check the road conditions before you embark.

4.    Skogafoss

No surprises here – it turns out that this jaw-dropping waterfall is also a wonderful spot to watch the northern lights in Iceland. This waterfall’s perfect sheet of rushing water is especially nice in the winter, since it never completely freezes over. There’s a camping site here as well, so you can park for the night and watch for the lights from the warmth of your campervan. Doesn’t get much better than that.   

Renting a campervan in Iceland during winter? This article will tell you everything you need to know.

5.    Melrakkaslétta Peninsula

The Melrakkaslétta Peninsula is in the far northeast of Iceland, the furthest you can get from Reykjavik. A stone’s throw from the Arctic, this area is remote, quiet, and ideal for watching the northern lights in Iceland. A rough track traces the coast of the peninsula linking two lonely and frozen towns, Kópasker and Raufarhöfn. If you’re travelling in the depths of winter things can get hairy – a 4x4 camper might be necessary. But catching the lights here will really make you feel small in the power of Iceland’s wild nature.  

6.    The Elephant Rock, Hvítserkur

A bit easier to get to but no less scenic is Hvítserkur in the northwest of Iceland. This rock that resembles an elephant juts up out of the ocean to the east of the Vatnsnes Peninsula, an area famed for its seal colonies. The wide-open views over the fjord are incredible, while the rock and black sand beach provide the perfect, moody foreground for a showing of the northern lights. 

7.    Goðafoss Waterfall

If you’re aurora-hunting in the north of Iceland, Goðafoss and the surrounding landscape is one of the best spots. This waterfall is without a doubt one of the prettiest in the whole country and makes for a fine accompaniment to the dancing northern lights overhead. Getting here in the winter is relatively easy as well – simply follow Route 1 from Akureyri towards Mývatn and you can’t miss it. Being so close to Akureyri, this part of the ring road only closes in the most severe weather.

8.    Vestrahorn

Anchored on the far south-eastern corner of the country, Vestrahorn mountain is an incredible place. Jagged peaks rise from a sweeping black sand beach, covered with tufts of green grass blowing in the wind. During northern light’s season, this place gets even moodier, often inundated with mists and rain. It feels otherworldly – a feeling that’s only enhanced if you’re lucky enough to see the northern lights streak across the sky at the same time.

Most of these location fall under our specialised winter ring road itinerary – check it out here.

9.    Mývatn Nature Baths

The second hot pot on this list is a bit more commercial than Hellulaug, but no less brilliant. Located in the volcanic oasis of Mývatn in northeast Iceland, the Nature Baths are North Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. During winter, the baths stay open late, allowing guests to continue swimming and increasing their chances of catching the northern lights shining overhead. You’ll have to pay admission, but it’s worth the price to swim through their various pools with views over the volcanic landscapes.

10.   Kleifarvatn

A personal favourite spot of ours, Kleifarvatn is easily accessible from Reykjavik and a great spot to try and catch the lights. On nights with a strong forecast, most locals will head out to the Grótta Nature Reserve at the tip of the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula. It’s a great spot, but lately can get a bit crowded for our tastes. We much prefer making the longer drive down towards the Reykjanes Peninsula, and turning off towards the lake. Embedded in a volcanic fissure and surrounded by crumbling lava, watching the lights on a clear night reflect of the still water is a powerful experience – in our books, this is easily one of the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland.

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